USA Today: Why shopping will never be the same
... The convergence of smartphone technology, social-media data and futuristic technology such as 3-D printers is changing the face of retail in a way that experts across the industry say will upend the bricks-and-mortar model in a matter of a few years.
"The next five years will bring more change to retail than the last 100 years," says Cyriac Roeding, CEO of Shopkick, a location-based shopping app available at Macy's, Target and other top retailers.
Within 10 years, retail as we know it will be unrecognizable, says Kevin Sterneckert, a Gartner analyst who follows retail technology. Big-box stores such as Office Depot, Old Navy and Best Buy will shrink to become test centers for online purchases. Retail stores will be there for a "touch and feel" experience only, with no actual sales. Stores won't stock any merchandise; it'll be shipped to you. This will help them stay competitive with online-only retailers, Sterneckert says.
Branding strategist Adam Hanft says this all might sound futuristic, but much of it is rooted in reality. He says satellite stores will open in apartment buildings and office centers. FedEx and UPS will delve deeper into refrigerated home delivery. Google trucks will deliver local services. Clothing — even pharmaceuticals — will be produced in the home via affordable 3-D printers.
"Every waking moment is a shopping moment," says Steve Yankovich, head of eBay's mobile business, which expects to handle $10 billion in transactions this year. "Anytime, anywhere."
Game-shifting tech — such as smartphones, location-based services, augmented reality and big data, which makes sense of all the data on mobile devices and social networks — will most assuredly upend several multibillion-dollar retail markets, forcing retailers to adapt or die, say venture capitalists and analysts.
Eventually, 3-D printers will let consumers produce their own towels, utensils and clothes. While in their infancy, the devices have been used to print hearing aids, iPad cases and model rockets, says Andy Filo, an expert on 3-D printers. The technology is several years away, however, from being widely available and affordable, he says.
And almost all of it will be paid with … your phone. ...
... Driving the future
All of this will be possible within several years because of:
•Smartphones. Location-based services and the growing adoption of Near Field Communication — a wireless technology standard for one-tap payment — will turn consumers' phones into stand-ins for credit, debit and loyalty cards, says Bill Gajda, head of mobile at Visa. Meanwhile, Nordstrom, among many, is phasing out cash registers this year in favor of smartphones with store-designed apps for purchases and inventory.
•The death of cash. If credit cards diminished use of cash in the 1950s, powerful smartphones and tablets will hasten its demise. Both are reshaping the relationship between merchant and customer as newfangled wallets, and each is edging toward becoming credit card readers and (cash) registers.
"Cash has dug in its heels for small-value transactions, but with the arrival of each new tech offering (providing) an alternative way to pay for little stuff — text your parking payment, Starbucks mobile app, Square, etc. — cash is being further and further marginalized," says David Wolman, author of the book The End of Money.
•Augmented reality. The increasingly popular technology adds a visual layer of information on top of surfaces such as a mirror. One breakthrough might come at the mall, with AR mirrors that let consumers shop based on data projected on glass, say social-media experts such as Brian Solis.
Another intriguing option is Google Glass, which puts computer-processing power, a camera, a microphone, wireless communications and a tiny screen into a pair of lightweight eyeglasses. Ultimately, Google hopes the "smart" glasses — which are a few years away — will be able to access information in real time, including the ability to identify locations and provide additional information about your whereabouts.
Harnessing social media
As smartphones and tablets grow in popularity, retailers are trying to get their hands around Facebook, Twitter and social media, and cater to consumers, says Niraj Shah, CEO of Wayfair, an e-commerce company that recently passed Crate & Barrel to become the No. 2 Internet retailer of home products. It racked up a record $500 million in revenue last year.
Only 8% to 13% of retail shopping in the USA is done online. Impressive as future retail technology might look, it will take good old-fashioned customer service to boost those figures, says Will Young, who heads Zappos Labs. ...